The American Legion's Operation Comfort Warriors  (OCW) took center stage Wednesday night at the third annual Marine Corps Trials at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
OCW presented around 300 backpacks filled with caps and water bottles to the athletes as the annual competition kicked off. This was the first appearance by OCW at the event.
"We came out here because it gave us the venue to get all the Marine Corps athletes at the same time," said James Ellison, a Legion staff member who coordinates the OCW program. "They're all here from the Wounded Warrior Battalion's East and West units, and international contingencies. It was exciting to see the motivation and the excitement on the athlete's faces. To see the adversity that these young Marines have overcome to compete is motivating."
OCW donations go toward supplying gifts for wounded warriors that assist in their recovery from injuries and illness. Typical items purchased with donations include physical rehabilitation equipment, loose-fitting clothing for burn victims and entertainment in the form of Wii games, DVDs, CDs and more.
On March 1, more than 300 wounded warriors will be competing in seven categories for the Marine Corps Trials: archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, swimming, cycling, and track and field.
The Marine Corps Trials are similar to an Olympic qualifier in that 50 Marines who perform well enough during the trials will advance to the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., where they will compete in May as the All-Marine Warrior team.
This week's winner of the pentathlon will receive a trophy, compliments of OCW.
Additionally, OCW donated 75 plaques to the volunteers, including three post commanders and a member of the executive committee from the Department of California.
"It was great to see these volunteers come out and being so interactive with the troops," Ellison said. "They were very helpful at the booth, interacting with the athletes, showing that they care, answering some questions and ensuring that everybody received backpacks."